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Avenue D Residents Await Improvements to Dry Dock Park

By Patrick Hedlund | April 13, 2011 3:58pm | Updated on April 13, 2011 3:57pm

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — Visitors to Alphabet City's Dry Dock Park have long complained that the public space's cracked pavement, peeling paint, broken basketball hoops and overall dilapidated condition made it one of the least inviting parks on the Lower East Side.

Only the faint outlines of chess boards remain on the tables dotting the park on East 10th Street and Avenue D, and crumbling drinking fountains appear the last place park-goers would want to press their lips for a sip of water.

"It sucks," said Nicole Cortez, 23, as her 3 1/2-year-old son, Christian, climbed the playground's jungle gym on a recent afternoon.

Cortez, whose child attends preschool a block from the park, grew up in the nearby Campos Plaza housing development and said she couldn't remember Dry Dock ever being a welcoming place.

"It's always been like this," she said, adding she usually took her son to another playground in nearby Stuyvesant Town, due to the "dirty" conditions at Dry Dock. "They never fix anything around here."

But this week, the city Parks Department plans to unveil preliminary designs for the park's reconstruction, after local residents worked with Councilwoman Rosie Mendez to allocate $1.2 million in funding for the project.

The neighborhood advocacy group Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) has been spearheading the effort for more than a year, working to incorporate local residents' desires for the park into the redesign.

The group will find out Thursday if the park's renovation plans take into account specific community needs, including culturally appropriate features such as domino tables and a handball court.

A survey of tenants in the nearby Jacob Riis Houses and Haven Plaza conducted by GOLES in late 2009 revealed that basic improvements — such as lighting, modern playground equipment and a new playground surface — topped residents' wish-list for the park.

More than 85 percent of respondents said they wanted more and better lighting to improve security at the park, as well to allow for basketball after dark, while more than 71 percent wanted new a new surface for the uneven playground.

Nearly 65 percent of respondents stressed the importance of new jungle gym equipment — most of the current playground's features are worn or chipped — as well as more trees, grass and flowers surrounding the park.

Other wishes included more and better seating next to the park's pool area, new chess tables, and repaved basketball courts with improved backboards.

Two rims recently disappeared from an entire basketball court at Dry Dock, leaving half the area unusable for players.

"If we want to go to a really good court, we have to go up to 23rd Street," said Rafael Perez, 20, as he shot around with friends at the park's only functioning court on a recent afternoon. "We would play a lot bigger games [if the courts were fixed up]."

Beyond that, GOLES members debated other items they may request for the park, including barbecue grills, hopscotch and skully courts, and possibly even a ping-pong table similar to the one recently installed in Tompkins Square Park.

Security and hours of operation are also of concern, with members agreeing that the basketball courts should be locked at midnight.

A Parks Department spokesman said that residents' requests have been included in the redesign, which will focus on reconstructing the park's sitting area, basketball courts and playground.

The city expects to complete design work by the end of the year, with construction starting in the spring of 2012, the spokesman added.

Parks officials are scheduled to attend Thursday's meeting of Community Board 3's parks committee to provide a look at the preliminary plans.